Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Measuring For a Pieced Border

Ever want to add on a pieced border and do your own thing?  It's really just a matter of getting the numbers right.  I'm going to try and explain the basic concept for the easily intimidated because it's NOTHING to be scared of! First you have to find the top, middle and bottom widths of your quilt.  Easy peasy.
Measure the top width of quilt
You'll want to have that tape measure flat and taut for an accurate number.  For some reason I couldn't take the picture and hold the tape properly at the same time. lol  The top measurement of this quilt is 40 5/8".
Measure the middle width of quilt
If you sew anything like me, there will be at least two different measurements and maybe even three!  That's pretty normal and nothing to stress over if it's within half an inch or so.  Ahem.  I have even worked with worse before.*wink
Middle width of quilt
 Moving on... The middle width of the quilt appears to be 40 1/2".
Measure the bottom width of quilt
And it looks like the bottom width of the quilt is reading at 40 1/4".  So here's the big three numbers:  40 5/8", 40 1/2" and 40 1/4".  I hope you wrote them all down!

Now turn the quilt one time and measure all three widths of the quilt once again from the other direction of the quilt.  Think 3 horizontal measurements and 3 vertical measurements!  (Sorry no pics of that part, it seems pretty self explanatory.)  The three numbers for that particular measurement of the quilt came out to: 40 1/2", 40 1/2" and 40 1/3".  Now you should have a total of 6 numbers written down.

Looking at all of those 6 numbers together, we now know that the average measurement of this quilt is 40 1/2".  Subtract the seam allowance from that average and we come to 40".

40" is the important number here! When you make a pieced border, you have to figure out how many repeats (of each piece of the border) you can have and more importantly, what size they need to be.  Playing with the number 40, I came up with 6 numbers that are clearly divisible without any remainders:  2, 2.5, 4, 5, 8, and 10.  Those are the numbers of repeats that will easily work for this border.
Repeat widths including the seam allowance
You'll want to think about proportion and what looks good with the rest of the quilt of course.  I decided to do a split sawtooth border which is actually three strips wide, but for the purposes of this exercise, lets focus on the measurement of the border that will be sewn directly to our quilt top.

I chose to make my border with 2.5" repeats.  Lets do the math:  40 divided by 2.5 equals 16.  That means I will have 16 repeats per each inside measurement of the quilt top.  (In other words, the 16 repeats for each border strip do NOT include the corner piecing.)

Remember!  We've been working with the finished size of the pieced block repeats.  In order to truly have 2.5" finished sized repeats, my blocks will need to be 3" before being sewn together for the border strips.

I used the half square triangle above as my REPEAT.  This can be anything you decide you want to do.  In my other borders I used an X-block as a repeat and in the border before something completely different.
Border strips
Sew your repeats together for each side (16 for this particular border) and then iron them.
Start pinning in dead center
Find the center of your quilt top and then the center of your first border.  I always pin with two pins to clearly define the center.

Then pin at the start, end, and every seam in between
Pin the start of your border to the quilt top, then pin the end of the border to the quilt top.  Great! Now you can pin in the middle of those areas and then pin at every single seam in between.  Pin extra where the quilt needs more adjustment or help.  Stretch gently and/or ease the fabric and pin,pin, pin.  You can see that I pinned more at the beginning.  It happens, especially when your quilt top measurements have that 1/4" plus difference!
Sew on border and iron
See!  It works!  A pieced border made up of sixteen 2 1/2" repeats clearly sews onto the quilt without any trouble.  Next I will sew the opposite border on just like I showed you with this one.  Then, I will have to add on the corner piecing to the remaining 2 borders before I sew them on.  Corner piecing is usually just one more repeat per each end of the next borders, but obviously I have changed that up so far with this quilt.

This was just a basic explanation of course.  Did it make sense to anyone or clear up any confusion?  Maybe next time I will explain how I got the measurements of the previous solid pieced border to make sure I ended up with a number that would be easy to work with for the next pieced border.  It's good to think ahead, but that's way too much for one post! lol  I'm going to go ahead and link this up with Fabric Tuesday over at Quilt Story!


  1. Gotta say I usually do some rough maths that never seem to quite work out ...thanks for the pointers!

  2. Makes perfect sense. Nice tutorial.

  3. Great information! I have avoided pieced borders exactly because of the math challenge.

  4. It seems obvious - in hindsight. I'm not sure I would have been able to have come up with this on my own. So thanks a bunch for this valuable tutorial.

  5. LOL - you piece like I do! I'm always coming up with different measurements too

  6. Great post Audrey... it's been a long while since I've made a pieced border. Your instructions and pictures are wonderful... and your timing is great! I've been contemplating a pieced border on a quilt that is in the works... a great refresher for me!

  7. Great information, thanks Audrey.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to write all these fabulous tips.I also enjoyed seeing more photos of your fabulous quilt and the fabrics you've used, nice to see some close ups!

  9. Great info and explaination. Quilters shouldn't be afraid of the math. You just made it easy for everyone.

  10. Thanks for the info. I've done it before, but would need instructions to do it again. Love how this quilt is coming along.

  11. You did a great job of explaining the process - it's been fun watching this quilt grow!

  12. Great tutorial! Your quilt is coming along beautifully - I loved seeing the close-ups of your fabrics. By the way, the madder stripe came out great and looks perfect in this quilt!

  13. Not sure you can still get comments, but after 20 years of quilting, I'd never heard the term coping borders. That tutorial was wonderful and I cannot wait to do my entwined borders. Thanks a lot mmsmith624@gmail.com


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